7 December 2011
Japan and Canada said they were out of the Kyoto Protocol, while China indicated support for all COP17 initiatives – especially the launch in Durban of the Green Climate Fund.
But Africa, Pacific island small states and Latin American countries called for immediate action from COP17, citing a litany of climate change-related death and destruction.
Their statements were shot through with fears for national survival.
“Climate change is killing us. Do something now. Don’t abdicate your responsibilities,” said Pacific Island state Niue’s Premier Toke Talagi.
Twenty-seven heads of government spoke at this morning’s high-level segment of the UN conference in Durban.
Canada complained that the Kyoto Protocol only covered as little as 15% percent of global emissions, and Japan put the figure at 25%, while China seemed to indicate that their emissions effort was extensive for a “developing nation” with 128m citizens still living on a dollar a day.
Nepal cited 7 000 climate change deaths.
Tuvalu Island said waters were rising and already entire communities had fled for safety.
Africa, Latin America and the Pacific island states were at the forefront calling for immediate financial intervention and emissions reduction, as well as legally binding agreements
The much-awaited speech of Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent, who has been derided almost daily by climate change activists at COP17, revealed a charm offense with Kent highlighting Canada’s professed commitment to the COP17 process.
However, Kent made it clear that Canada was supporting their largest trading partner, the US.
Canada would support a new international agreement – on condition that all major emitters were bound by it.
“We must be fair if we are to be effective,” he said.
“Kyoto for Canada is in the past”, but the Cancun “blueprint” covered three quarters of global emissions, and were more realistic and effective.
Almost all 27 nations said in their three-minute statement that they had policies, plans and programs in place to counter the alarming changes in the global climate.
Canada promised a 17 percent reduction by 2020. Among a list of Canadian government actions was the closure of coal-inefficient operations.
Kent said Canada said it was “helping” developing countries to a tune of $1.2bn and would support the Green Climate Fund.
Canada “hoped that all countries will join us” in taking concrete “verifiable” action to reduce emissions.
“We are here to pull our weight,” he said.
China’s National Development and Reform Commission chairman Xie Zhenhua called for a move towards “practical objectives”.
China supported Kyoto, the Bali Roadmap, Copenhagen and Cancun.
Durban’s COP17 had to safeguard the UN’s multilateral principles.
“We must conclude the Bali road map and make clear arrangements for a second period of commitment to the Kyoto Protocol,” he said.
Those in Kyoto had to quantify their emissions, and those outside had to show comparable commitments.
The Green Climate Fund and associated mechanisms had to be “launched in Durban”.
In a sop to developed nations, Zhenhua said that in spite of “tremendous” economic challenges, developed countries had “made every effort to control their emissions, and developing countries had to take responsibility for doing the same.
He noted world concerns over China’s emissions and listed their national efforts, among them a 30-ton reduction in coal burning.
China will be creating a greenhouse gas accounting system and doing more carbon trading.
China would be providing assistance to Afric and small island states.
China supported South Africa’s push for “openness and inclusiveness. China will play a constructive role.”
The real urgency in the morning’s talks came from the leaders of the islands of Niue, Tuvalu, Fiji, the Comoros, plus Morocco, Liberia, Nigeria, Honduras and Paraguay.
Fiji Environment Minister Samuela Saumatua said they were engaged in a daily, dire struggle to survive.
“We need a decision.”
Parties had to “take responsibility” and “demonstrate courage”.
There could be no gap in the rules. There had to be reparation for loss and damages.
It was “alarmingly apparent” that promises to protect the environment made 20 years ago at the start of the COP process, had not been fulfilled and “more needs to be done”.
“We need ambitious to avoid runaway climate change. Let’s stop talking. Let’s decide. Let’s deliver!” he told the world leaders.
Honduras Natural Resources and Environment Minister Rigoberto Cruz said their two coastlines were “in jeopardy”.
“Developed industrial countries are the main cause.”
He demanded funds from the green climate fund.
Nepal’s Environment Minister Hemraj Tater said climate change had killed 7000 citizens, mainly in landslides.
Japan’s Environment Minister Goshi Hosono said they would be imposing a “global warming” tax in April.
Japan was still suffering from the effects of massive tsunami damage and a nuclear meltdown.
However, southern Japan, including Tokyo, had reduced their electricity use by 15%.
Paraguay Environment Minister Oscar Rivas demanded “climate justice” and said the public needed to have confidence in the COP process.
Hundreds of millions of lives were at risk.
“Earth appeals to us. We need wisdom. People are expectant. So many in the world have hope that we can come up with (a solution)”.
Where were the funds? Countries to the south did not want “empty, insincere” conversation from nations who were shirking their responsibility for creating “perverse” climate change.
Rivas was the only leader to acknowledge and greet “the social movements” in the world in his preamble.
Nigeria‘s Environment Minister Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafia said: ” Durban should not be polluted by killing Kyoto.”
Climate change was affecting 142m Nigerians, who have survived “flooding and unimaginable erosion”.
Promises of funds and action from the developed world had not materialized.
Maldives Housing and Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam said: “We need to close the 11 gigaton gap.
“We expect the IPCC report of 2014 will tell us we have passed the tipping point.”
Current trajectories “have us on a 4 degree course”.
“We cannot be asked to compromise when our survival as a nation is at stake.”
“We are not flattered by talk of money. UN reports show we don’t have much time.”
The most emotional appeal came from Tavalu Foreign Affairs Minister Apisai Lelemia who said: “We are only a few inches from the point of no return.”
“Atolls like ours believe oceans bring life; now it brings destruction. And we have the worst drought! We had to import water and desalination technology.”
“We are the most vulnerable country in the world. Climate change is killing us.”
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